Sunday, August 25, 2013

5 Things to Know about Interning at a Small Company

If you've been keeping up with my blog this summer, you knew I was out in Northern California interning for a small non-profit. After my internship I was asked to blog for . As a little something different, I thought I would share my post here. If you are actively looking for an internship, job or advice, check out InternMatch. 
Big company or small? Knowing the kind of environment you will work best in can make applying to jobs a lot less overwhelming. If you’ve never considered working at a small company, here are 5 things that I’ve learned after spending the summer working for a small non-profit.
1. You may be the only intern.
For some people, this can be scary. You don’t have built in “friends” in your work environment that you commiserate with. On the plus side, you are much more likely to develop meaningful relationships with other employees. These people have been in the workforce for a few years so they lots of contacts in their industry. They already know their way around the office and are likely to become mentor figures.
2. You’re likely to get cross-divisional experience.
Not sure what you want to do yet? Small companies may be the best atmosphere for you. Since the company divisions contain a lot less people, you will probably get asked to help with something outside of what you were hired for. This provides you the opportunity to network with other employees and learn more about how the company runs.
3. Easier lines of communication.
I worked in social media and our marketing department consisted of 4 people (including me). If I had a question on a project I could go directly to the Director of Marketing. Many interns at bigger companies struggle with communication. Sometimes they have to wait days for answers to questions or approval on projects since they have to go through so many more people.
4. You become a team player.
Many items on this list can depend on the industry or culture, but if you are selected to be an intern at a small company it is because they think you will fit in to their team. In my experience, I felt much more like a regular employee. I was invited to meetings, on calls, and asked to share my research. I felt like I was adding value with what I was doing instead of just being a cog in the wheel.
5. More face time.
Bigger companies tend to have employees located all over the world, so you spend a lot of time pinging and emailing someone you will never meet. I loved having face time with all of the employees on a regular basis. This was especially important with the higher ups. The executive director knows my name, where I go to school, and what I did last weekend. Bigger companies just aren’t able to do this.
For me, the biggest challenge was not having other interns. It was my first time in the area so it was hard to make friends outside of work. I ended up becoming better friends with my roommate than I expected and taking lots of recommendations from my co-workers on stuff to do in the area.
I am very happy with my experience at a small company. I wanted to get the most out of my internship and my small company allowed me to learn and network from a group of passionate and intelligent people. Because it was so small, I was able to learn something from everyone there. Many students go into internship hunting thinking that they need an experience from a large and recognizable company. I’ve found that it doesn’t matter as much about where you work, but it matters more about what you learned not just in the industry, but about yourself. If any of the above 5 things interests you, take a look at some of the smaller companies on InternMatch.

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